THE new year will mark a new era for seven Dorset libraries as they begin life under community management.

Final arrangements are underway after Dorset County Council ceased funding to the facilities and agreed to hand them over to the control of communities.

The handover process has already been completed at libraries in Burton Bradstock and Charmouth.

Those at Chickerell, Puddletown, Wool, Colehill and Stalbridge will be transferred to the communities early next year.

Graham Lee, chairman of the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries (Ad Lib), said: “Sixteen months ago, eight community libraries located throughout the county were faced with the stark choice of being closed through the lack of funding or managing the libraries themselves.

“The response of the community which are volunteers to this challenge has been remarkable.

“We are at least near the end of the negotiations designed not only to give the libraries and sound start but also a secure future.”

He added “The efforts made by the county council towards achieving this are much appreciated.

“The communities involved look forward to a long term working relationship with the library service that ensures that the commitment of their volunteers remains well rewarded.”

The move comes after Dorset County Council withdrew core funding to nine libraries as part of the service’s bid to save £725,000.

Portland Underhill Library closed in April after no agreement could be reached with the local community to take on the facility and talks are still ongoing in relation to the handover of Corfe Castle Library.

The community-run libraries will be fully independent and self-governed but will have a package of support from the council worth around £5,500 a year for each library that will include staffing, books and IT services.

Cabinet member for community services councillor Hilary Cox said: “I am very pleased that by working together in partnership and through careful listening and constructive negotiation, we are now looking to finalise dates for local communities to take over the responsibility for running seven libraries with support from Dorset County Council. “The county council appreciates the local leadership and hard work that has been done. “This innovative approach is good for local communities, while helping us to manage our reduced budget, which we have to do. “I would like to thank all the volunteers for coming forward.”